tv [untitled] May 30, 2012 7:30pm-8:00pm EDT
fair point. the point of the book was not -- is not to suggest that the republican party's hands are clean. inland it was really to tell a story about the democratic party. because while both parties, i think, have a lot of common characteristics, there's a lot of overlap in the way they behave. in many respects they have the same problems. in equal number of respects, they are very unique in that the story of both parties are different. arguing that the democrats have a problem is not to suggest that the republicans do not have a problem. in fact, i think they do. i think they have a problem with big business, in fact. >> jay cost is a staff writer for weekly standard. your can catch his morning jay columns twice a week. let's go to the phones and hear from fayetteville, north carolina. leon is on our democrats line. hi. >> caller: hi, good morning. mr. cost, i wanted to tell you that i agree with your analysis in your book.
i'm at the tail end of the baby boom generation, the '60s, president kennedy asking not what your country can do for you but what you can do for your country. that character seems to have dissipated. today it's all about what have you done for me, for me. this country is not going to work if we don't all kick in. making connections from the corner, asking whether or not america should get involved in syria and help out on a global aspect. i just feel as though if we don't work together, this thing doesn't pan out right. it's about service. service to our country. the youngest country now, compared to everybody else and we've got a whole continent. everybody is looking at us.
i don't want to ramble but seems to get -- one i came up with, we all kick in no matter what. the other one, everybody coming to the table and saying what about me, what about me and forgetting about the us. >> i think that's a great comment. i think there's been -- the country has always sort of had the problem of what you might call tribalization in such a group centered type politics. that just something that goes back to the founding of the country, frankly. but i think the choolening -- it's a persistent one with any kind of government that's run by political parties, their purpose is to win elections. there's lots of ways to win elections. unfortunately one way to win elections is to curry favor with political groups. it's not a guarantee political parties are trying to win broad national policies will i think it's a challenge both political parties suffer from now, this
group centered focus on electoral victory. independent caller graceville, florida. good morning. >> good morning. i wan to make a couple of comments. number one, it's important to understand that when the nation was founded, those who participated in politics were men who owned property. it was considered the bedrock of whether or not you were able to exercise influence, cause events to happen. now all of the founders are concerned about development and political parties because they realize political parties divides. unlike your guest, i don't see the development of political parties as an issue, unlike president washington and others. i think it is a natural outgrowth of what happens as people come together to use the
mechanisms of government and wanting to further their interests. yes, the democrats have issues in the sense that they are trying to essentially meet the needs of a broad coalition. likewise with respect to the republicans. but this is the american political system. unless you want revolutions, blood letting, then i think the political party system in the united states is served as well. if it's going to be revised, it should be revised in such a way that suits our culture. although i do think your guests have made some good points, i think before he sort of paints the american political party system with a broad brush as being somehow defective or flawed in some fundamental way, think of the alternative. >> well, those are some good comments. i think i would make two in response. the first, i agree with the basic premise, which is political parties in this
country are sort of inevitable and not a bad thing. i think they are, in fact, a good thing. in fact, you can look as early as the debate over the constitution in the fall of 1787 through all of 1788. you can see the beginnings of these political factions within the country that eventually evolved in the jeffersonian and hamiltonian parties. political parties in this country are pretty inevitable. that being said, i think that there have been times in the country's history where the party -- where the competition between the two parties has been helpful and constructive, and there has been times when it has not been helpful and has not been constructive. for instance, when we think about american history and the american past we think about the founding period, the civil war. then there's this sort of blank spot in our collective memory between the end of the civil war and up through the great
depression. that's in large part because the country didn't get much of anything done during that period. they didn't because the two parties were really too focused on small issues that didn't affect the great vast population and were not really focusing the american public's attention on the key issues of the day. so for instance territorial expansion, industrialization, the urban crisis. all of these were issues that were sort of festering in the late 19th century, left largely unaddressed. they were left unaddressed because the party system had broken down. so while i would agree political parties are inevitable and a good thing, i think they are also prone to be corrupted and broken down, and i think that's what we have right now. i think our party system is extremely dysfunctional in our country's history. >> how are we going to fix that jay cost? >> that's a good question.
the first thing i would do, frankly, is institute term limits. i think term limits would go a long way to cleaning out tabbed interests within the government. the argument of my book really is this problem of interest group politics appears most notably congress and in particular the house of representatives. i just don't think of the 535 members of congress, i don't think any of them are so essential to the nation's continued functioning that we can't have term limits. so that's the first thing i would do. the second thing i would do is probably eliminate -- this is going to sound very contrary to conventional thinking, but makes for good television hopefully. i would eliminate the party primaries particularly for congressional seats. i think the electorate is not -- does not pay enough attention to really use the primaries as a vehicle to clean out and monitor
incumbents. i think the old party system of conventions, reinvigorating the local parties would be a great thing. that's something we forget about now. political parties are just like target and walmart. they just appear on television and they send us messages through television. we're entirely passive. when we talk about the party, we usually think of professionals within the party. 100 years ago the political parties were mass institutions that sort of cultivated broad participation in this country. for instance the election of 1896 voter turnout in the state of ohio hit upwards of 95%. you know, after the last two election cycles, we've been patting ourselves on the back for getting to 65% turnout. that would have been a low effort in the 1890s. i think one of the big differences was that back then the parties were these mass
organizations that brought people into the process and served as not just political organizations but civic and social organizations as well. we simply don't have that anymore. one of the big reasons why is, frankly, the institution of the party primaries, has really destroyed the local party organizations. >> john, independent line, good morning. >> caller: good morning, how are you? >> good, thanks. how are you doing? >> caller: all right. i'm 47 years old and i'm just a little bit unhappy with the way my life has been going on for the last three years. it's not just me. i know so many people my age that are out of work. i've been a security officer for like so many years. it's only been three years i've been out of work. i've always been a workaholic. over never been out of work. i've been a hard worker since i was 16. it teams like people -- i've sent out a million resumes a lot of people keep calling me back saying you have too much
experience. i can't give you $12 per hour. i can't give you $9 per hour. i can give you $7.50 or $8. i used to live in point pleasant. i'm not prejudice. i grew up with every nationality you can think of. at point pleasant, everybody hanging out leaning up against, all teenagers 13 through 25, young adults. none of them were working. i tried to realize why are none of them working. every single restaurant in point pleasant beach on arnold -- on the boardwalk, there's 50 mexicans in every kitchen and they are all willing to work for $5 an hour. >> john, how does your stance on illegal immigrants or immigration, your stance
translate into how you're going to vote? >> i don't know how i'm going to vote. politics is very hard for me within the last 10 to 15 years. it just seems like most politicians really don't care about the people. they really don't care. they talk all this technical, technical talk, every single one of them, that i don't understand a word they are saying. they use such large words. it's not that i don't understand what they are saying, they need to speak simmon english for people to understand what's going on. >> let's get a response from jay cost to see what he has to say about those comments. >> look, i think those are very inciteful comments. he's tapping into a broad resentment out there. there's a shared sense between democrats, republicans, liberals, conservatives, that the democratic process is breaking down. increasingly our representatives in washington don't speak for
us, they speak for somebody else. i'm not entirely sure who that is sometimes look, i think this is an acceleration of a broad trend back to the late 1960s. in the 1960s when you ask people, do you trust the government most of the time to do the right thing, the majority of people would say yes, yes, i do. now if a pollster called me up and asked that question, i would probably laugh. of course i don't. that's probably a majority sentiment out there now. i think it's a problem both political parties have, this sort of trust deficit that exists. i think it's going to make it extremely difficult for the next president, be it president obama or governor romney to form a governing coalition and actually govern. it's very difficult to do that in a republican form of government such as ours when you don't have the trust of the people. not just the trust of the people, the personalities and
the people you see on televisions, obviously that's part of it now, increasingly there is a distrust about our institutions themselves. when you look at the job approval ratings on congress, for instance, that's a real warning call, warning signal. i think it signifies that people's suspicions have moved beyond just personalities they see on television and to the institutions themselves. in other words, people are starting to appreciate these institutions are broken. >> let's hear from mike, a republican in newburgh, maryland. good morning. >> hey, good morning. i don't really see that the institution is broken. i mean, there are some things about the way the thing works that are broken. largely to me, it revolves around the fact that you've got two complete competing political ideologies and only two. one of them revolves around the success of the individual
creating the common good and the other one revolves around elite people deciding what the common good is an trying to force everybody into that model but on a larger scale it really comes down to people from the top of society to the bottom have forgotten about the golden rule. it's not hard to treat people the way you want to be treated. yet when we elect people to public office, and instead look at their offices as ways to increase their personal wealth, their personal well connectedness, we can't expect to have any kind of real constitutional kind of government as well as the concept of a moral and religious people has been thrown out the window. >> mike, do you blame one party for that more than another or do you blame that across the board? >> caller: this is a hard thing for me to say because i really
don't want to lay blame at anybody's feet. human nature has fallen. the fallen nature exists throughout the entire human race all the time. of course that means it exists in the political parties. but from where i sit, it seems to me to be pretty well obvious that the founders of this country intended for a moral and religious people to be the basis of representative and self-government. people needed to be able to govern themselves if they weren't goalkeeper to have self-government. >> okay. we'll leave it there and get a response from jay cost. >> look, i think this country has always had a problem with graft in politics. we still have that today. there's studies that show returns on investment for congress far outstrip that of the average investor.
to me that's a form of graft. to me, an old book, over 100 years old written by one of the bosses of tammany hall. he was at pains to distinguish between honest graft and dishonest graft. you know, he called honest graft -- he summarized it as saying i seen my opportunities and i took them. of course we have a lot of the things george washington plunkett did have been sense made illegal. you can't do those things anymore. but there's a lot of ways that politicians still to this day can see their opportunities and take them. and that's really annen demmic feature of american politics. it goes back -- your caller was articulating many of the same sentiments andrew jackson was making in the 1820s. that's almost 200 years ago. i think the great challenge,
though, becomes when do we get to the appoint in this country where the sort of typical gamesmanship of politicians becomes so overwhelming and so problematic that the public good begins to be undermined. for instance, tammany hall where plunkett was part of. what you could say about tammany hall in a lot of respects, it kept the trains running on time so to speak. that stopped happening when the great depression hit and suddenly there was widespread discontent with new york city which led to laguardia being elected mayor and the end of tammany hall. we've seen this before, too. the concept of patronage on the federal level where presidents when they win, they fire all the people in the government and hire their own supporters. well, james garfield was assassinated in 1881 because of patronage and that's when we passed civil service reform. the public said if you have is enough. i think, you know, look, the country is not functioning very
well at this moment. i think most people agree about that. right now i think sentiments about that remain polarized by ideology and partisanship. if this sort of sense of dissatisfaction continues for the next couple of years as it happened the previous couple, i have a very time seeing the public not sweeping out the established interest. which again, this is something -- i mean, in the modern memory, we really have no recollection of that happening but it's happened before. it happened in the 1890s. it happened in the 1930s. it happened in the 1930s. it can happen again. at the end of the day despite the sort of -- go to washington, d.c. and see all of these faceless buildings on k street and know it's teeming with interest groups and lobbyists and so on and so forth. it doesn't change the fact the founding document of this country, the constitution powers the people with the final colony. it's just an issue of whether or
not public opinion gets to the point where the people are willing to use that power to sweep out public interest. >> jay cost, author of "spoiled rotten." you write about the health care law, that president obama pushed to get signed into law. you say it was a symbol throughout the democratic party over years that various people tried to fight for. harry truman included universal health care reform in his fair deal package in the '40s. teddy roosevelt called for national health service back in 1912. but health care reform turned out to be the democratic party's undoing, even though obama and the democratic leadership in congress wanted to see this go forward. what do you mean by it turned out to be the party's undoing? >> well, health care has long been a liberal goal and it's a
noble one. as a conservative, i don't have the same ideological sense of the means by which we can achieve universal i probably have a different view of what health care should be. for liberals, much more so than conservatives are -- they're a priority and politics as a priority. and health care is sort of -- would be a great step forward for equality. and the point of my book was not to critique this or go after and critique the means by which liberals wanted to pursue this. the book doesn't have anything to say about single pair, for instance. i'm not a policy wonk. i have my opinions on the efficacy of that, but that's not my specialty so i avoided that. the problem for the democrats was that in pursuing what has long been a dream of equality -- sort of a great step forward in
national equality, the democrats signed into law a bill that treats people in grossly unequal ways. the bill is festooned with carveouts to special interest groups. this is where we were talking earlier about the clinton administration bringing big business in. the health care bill is not just full of payouts for feminists and labor unions. out although it is. it also includes payouts for the pharmaceutical industry, the hospitals, the doctors, the nurses, the senior citizens. that's the way they chose to write the bill. the obama administration learned -- and in my opinion, they learned the wrong lessons from the clinton experience with universal health care, was to -- clinton had hillary clinton step away from the interest group bickering and congressional
input and write say bill with just the experts, and the bill that was produced offended too many interests within the congress, and it never even got a vote. >> well, what the obama administration did was the opposite of that. what they did instead was open the doors wide to any and all interest groups that were ready to deal. in particular, they were very concerned about being -- getting another version of those ads from -- i think it was from insurance companies in the 1990s, blasting the health care bill. they were very worried about interest groups running ads to undermine public opinion on the bill. they made deals. they made deals with scores of groups. in fact they were this close to making a deal with the insurance companies, even as they were on television blasting the insurance companies for being so evil, they were working behind
the scenes to make a deal with them. the only reason the insurance companies walked is because the final draft of the bill had too weak of an individuals mandate. >> we want to get a few more comments and calls in here. we have people lined up to talk to you. maverick writes on twitter and says, let's be clear, if you have enough money, you can you influence policy and politics, thanks to citizens united and wealth transfer. >> i think that the citizens united case is a red herring. i think both sides get themselves hung up on these symbolic villains, you know, the right has george soros. the left now has the koch brothers. really a red herring. the problem increasingly is these political action committees in washington, d.c., the average citizen has never
heard of. to suggest that this started with citizens united, i think is really just a -- it's a red herring. i mean, the problems, frankly date back to the 1971 federal elections campaign act. which the democrats then only wrote because organized labor put pressure on them to do so. ever since then, it just kicked the door wide open to countless streams of lobbyists and political action committees. so the left has their villains, the right has their villains, the real problem is under the radar at this point still. >> another comment on twitter. it's partly the press who refuses to ask politicians tough questions. we hear spend, we the people have little access, that's what save republic has on twitter. let's hear what michael has to say? >> i just -- everybody's crying, we need to take $1 billion off of medicare, cut a billion here and there.
just before the bush crew left august they gave the banks $7.7 trillion. then they were crying the sky was falling, give us another $800 billion. he did. they kept it a secret for three years, they gave the banks three years worth of total american income, 7$7.7 trillion. you punch 7.7 trillion in any computer, it comes up how the republicans gave the banks $7.7 trillion, three years equivalent of income in one with month's time right before obama came in. why doesn't anyone comment on that, ever? >> well, look, i think both parties have a problem with the big banks, frankly, and if you look at the tarp bill, a majority of the republicans voted against tarp if the house of representatives, the democrats voted for it. if you look at the contributions that obama and mccain is heed
from working for the big banks. obama raised mccain 2 to 1. i mean, that's not to exonerate the republicans on that front. it's just to say that this is -- you know, businesses are very, very smart. ideolog ideologues, liberals and conservatives only like to play one side. they apologize for one side, and do nothing but criticize the other side. businesses now in this country and other groups -- most of them are very smart and they buy access. they're more than happy to play both sides of the aisle. >> john, independent caller. brunswick georgia now joining us. hi, john. >> how are you you? good morning. >> you're on with jay. >> yes. i'm going to comment about the guy calling in to talk about the hispanics. he must forgot that this country was built on slave labor and lies.
he talks out both sides of his mouth. he's nothing no more than a right wing for big corporations. >> john, are you a democrat? >> i'm independent, military 26.5 years. >> and john, what do you think about the state of the democratic party and the republican party? do you think they're beholden to special interests? >> what do i think about the democratic party? >> sure. >> the democratic party, yeah. we got a lot of money into politics now. he didn't comment about that, about what the supreme vote did, about money. money buys elections. >> okay. >> well, look, i'm not sure money buys elections. at least not in the presidential level. the way money functions in this country is a lot more subtle. the influence money and politics, i think what it really does is that it intimidates challengers, would be challengers to members of
congress. because members of congress. it's a classic example of what happens every time there's a big wave election, is that -- in 2010 you saw the republicans sort of beat a bunch of democratic incumbents. they did so largely through grassroots. they get into office. and they're going to defend their seats now, and raise twice as much money. now their money is going to come from political action committees. the point of that money is not so much to win an election outright in a campaign ad war, but really to intimidate would-be challengers from running. and make sure that whoever does end up filing doesn't appear to have a chance so he can't raise the money. money -- in other words, money works in much more subtle ways. this is where i think that the human cry over the citizens united case is really misplaced. i can appreciate it, although i don't agree with the opposition to that case. i just think that by focusing on
citizens united. you miss the real underlying tendencies of how money operates in politics. it tends to be much more subtle. it tends to happen much more often in congress than the presidential level. particularly in the house of representatives. >> let's hear from don, who's a democrat in detroit. good morning, don. >> i'm calling to protest washington journal having columnists to provide observation on a democratic party, when he's here to settle his partisan book. the way you are presenting it, this guy is to present the facts and nothing but the facts. that's what i wanted. >> what do you think about the democratic party? >> i'm a democrat. >> and how do you feel the party has evolved? it sounds like you take issue with what jay costa is saying, give us a counterpoint. your io